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    Coronavirus - advice and information for recreational boaters

    Guidance for boaters (updated 09/07/20)

    Government Guidance

    The latest measures to stop the virus spreading include: staying at home as much as possible, limiting contact with other people, keeping at least two metres from others and washing your hands regularly. 

    Following the Government announcement on Sunday 10 May, unlimited outdoor activity is permitted in England including all forms of boating. In England people are permitted to travel to other destinations in order to exercise and from 4 July further significant easing of restrictions have been permitted, these are set out below.

    In the Home Countries, the return to boating is at different stages dependant on how the devolved administrations assess the threat. People who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the guidance in the country specific links that follow.

    The Government is asking us all to help control the virus by staying alert.  Please continue to take action to prevent the potential spread of infection.  This means you should: 

    • Stay at home as much as possible
    • Work from home if you can
    • Limit contact with other people
    • Keep your distance if you go out (stay 2 metres (6ft) apart where possible)
    • Wash your hands regularly 

    RYA return to boating strategy

    The RYA publishes a considerable amount of detailed information here to support its “Return to Boating” strategy across the boating community.

    1. Our guidance

    Covid-19 preventative measures are vital in keeping you, your family and others safe and to minimise pressure on frontline services. The RYA will continue to support the National effort to control the spread of Covid-19 and assist members of the RYA family with any variations that might develop at a local level.  We support the Government’s desire to return to normality in a measured way and we recognise that we have a role to play by providing guidance to the RYA community on the application of the 2020 Regulations.

    2. Our approach is considerate and conservative

    Considerate: be mindful of the potential impact that you could have on other water users and do not place unnecessary extra strain on the RNLI and emergency services.

    Conservative: help to minimise incident and accidents by taking an extra cautious approach to your boating.

    Our guidance on safe boating remains unchanged: know your limits; look after yourself; keep in touch and, above all, have a plan. As the restrictions are relaxed, we advise boaters to think about these factors.  The RNLI and the RYA have also worked in collaboration to produce joint safety guidance to help ensure that this summer is as safe as it can be.

    Coronavirus Regulations

    The Regulations enable the Government and devolved administrations to do a number of things; determine what businesses must stay closed and what can open, restrict certain business activities, control the movement of people and to restrict gatherings. While guidance sets out how the Governments consider people should behave, the regulations set out how people must behave and it is the regulations (rather than the guidance) that may be enforced within the law.

    The regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now significantly diverse but are still aimed at governing business, movement, gatherings and social distancing albeit that there are marked differences.  You should be aware that the pace at which the regulations are being eased varies considerably from between the four nations and you should read the country specific guidance below.   

    Recreational boating in England

    The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.  This page sets out what you should and should not do from 4 July.

    The government has published guidance on staying alert and staying safe outside your home. This is national guidance that applies to England only - if you live in an area that is experiencing a local Covid-19 outbreak and where local lockdown measures have been imposed, different guidance and legislation will apply.  Please consult the local lockdown restrictions page to see if any restrictions are in place in your area. 

    New regulations in England

    The latest Regulation (S.I. 2020/684) revokes S.I. 2020/350, amended by S.I. 2020/447; 2020/500; 2020/558; 2020/588 and requires the Secretary of State to review the need for restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations at least once every 28 days, with the first review being carried out by 31st July 2020. The following provisions are important for the return to boating strategy.

    A business or providing a service which is listed in Schedule 2 must cease to carry on that business or to provide that service during the emergency period. The list is finite and this restriction does not include restaurants, public houses, bars – including restaurants and bars in hotels or members’ clubs.

    Restrictions on movement have been revoked. Therefore the requirement that “No person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living” is also revoked and overnighting anywhere including on your boat is now permitted.

    Restrictions relating to gatherings (R.5) have been significantly amended. The restrictions on gatherings until 4 July have been revoked. Now the regulations permit gatherings of up to 30 people that take place in a private dwelling, on a vessel* and a public outdoor space. The limit of 30 people does not apply if:

    1. The gathering has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body,
    2. The person responsible for organising the gathering (“the gathering organiser”) has carried out a risk assessment which would satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999(14), whether or not the gathering organiser is subject to those Regulations, and
    3. The gathering organiser has taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, taking into account the risk assessment carried out under paragraph (ii), what is reasonable has to take into account government guidance relevant to the gathering in question

    *“Vessel” means any ship, boat, barge, lighter or raft and any other description of craft, whether used in navigation or not, but does not include government vessels.

    The regulations are the law and set out what you are compelled to do. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states that where Government guidelines or advice suggest that the public should or should not act in specific ways, failure to comply with such guidelines or advice is not an offence unless it is specifically covered by the Regulations. For example, it is not an offence:

    • To fail to wear face coverings in shops.
    • To fail to comply with social distancing guidelines.

    A copy of the new Regulations is available at:

    Recreational boating in Scotland

    A return to boating in Scotland came into effect on 3 July, as travel distance and overnight restrictions are eased.

    Indicative dates for re-opening and scaling up over the rest of Phase 2 and early Phase 3 in Scotland can be found here.

    Updated guidance available at the Return to Boating page of the RYA Scotland website continues to provide support and detailed guidance across all forms of boating.

    Follow the RYA Scotland website for up to date information in Scotland.

    Recreational Boating in Northern Ireland

    The Department of Health has released up-to-date guidance on its restrictions and public health advice.

    The purpose of this guidance is to provide clear information and advice for the public on (a) the restrictions in law on movement and activities during the pandemic and (b) what you, your business, your place of worship or your organisation can and should do to limit the spread of COVID-19.

    The guidance is in four sections: 

    (1) What the Regulations mean for you as an individual citizen;
    (2) What the Regulations mean for your business;
    (3) What the Regulations mean for your voluntary, community or faith-based organisation; and 
    (4) Public health advice.

    Overnight stays onboard can now take place with the easing of restrictions on second homes. You may gather outdoors with up to thirty other people who are not members of your household (in doing so you should maintain social distancing) and you may participate in an indoor gathering where all the persons in the gathering are elite athletes and the gathering is essential for training or competition purposes.  

    The NI Executive is seeking to move quickly to relax the restrictions provided it is safe to do so. The Regulations are reviewed every three weeks and each restriction will be lifted once it is no longer necessary.

    More information from RYA Northern Ireland can be found here.

    Recreational Boating in Wales

    Travel restrictions in Wales ended on 6 July. Additionally, potential overnight stays on boats, within the same household, will be allowed from 11 July onwards.

    The RYA Cymru Wales Return to Boating Wales will be updated and a notification sent to Affiliated Clubs and Recognised Training Centres earliest opportunity via email and our social media channels.  

    Further details for Wales can be found here.

    Private boat insurance during the Coronavirus lockdown

    Many insurance policies include conditions relating to “keeping the boat in a seaworthy condition” and will have exclusions relating to “lack of maintenance” and “gradual ingress of water”. 

    During the lockdown, many of us were not been able to visit our boats.  Now that restrictions are easing, most marinas, moorings and boatyards are now open, but there are still a number of restrictions dependant on where you are in the UK that may prevent you from getting to your boat until 4 July. For those in this position, regular attendance and maintenance will be extremely difficult if not impossible until there is further easing of restrictions.

    The RYA’s advice to all our members is that you should check your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy itself actually states, particularly if your policy pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic measures. Our understanding is that most insurers are willing to extend the period when boats are left unattended and we would be surprised if any insurer refused to extend this provision, although there is likely to be a condition that the vessel must have been adequately maintained prior to lockdown. 

    UK canals and rivers

    The majority of Canal & River Trust (CRT) navigations are now open with a few exceptions. 

    Guidance on Environment Agency waterways was updated on 25 June 2020.

    In line with the latest Government advice for England issued on 23 June 2020, from Saturday 4 July 2020 boaters in England can stay overnight on their boats and take extended cruises. Holiday hire boat companies will also be able to operate, taking precautions around safe practise, such as extra cleaning.   

    Recreational boating abroad

    Until 4 July 2020, the UK Government still advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.  This advice is being kept under constant review and from 4 July the advice will change, with exemptions for travelling to certain countries that no longer pose a high risk for British travellers. Find out which countries will be exempt.    

    Noonsite provides a considerable amount of information that may help recreational boaters abroad and its Covid-19 document has guidance as well as links to all the latest developments.  

    In addition, Noonsite in association with the Ocean Cruising Club, has compiled a list of ports of transatlantic ports, Mediterranean ports and Northern European ports that are open to yachts in transit for re-supply, re-fuelling and/or in emergencies during the current Covid-19 health emergency.  The document was updated for the final time on 5 June 2020.

    Noonsite has now produced a new mapping feature on its website which can be accessed from the small blue icon on the right hand side of the Noonsite screen.

    Entering or returning to the UK

    People arriving in England from countries including France, Spain, Germany and Italy will no longer need to quarantine from 10 July.  A full list of exempt countries is available here.

    Until then, you will need to follow the rules for entering or returning to the UK. You will:. 

    • need to provide your journey and contact details when you travel to the UK
    • not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK except in very limited situations (known as ‘self-isolating’)

    The Scottish government said it had not yet made a final decision on easing restrictions on international travel.

    The Welsh government is also yet to decide whether it will follow England in relaxing restrictions. 

    In Northern Ireland, quarantine regulations remain in place for travellers arriving from outside the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

    International recreational vessel arrivals

    Attention is drawn to the following requirements for those arriving at a UK port on recreational vessels from overseas. 

    Unless exempt, all international recreational maritime arrivals entering the UK will need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival into the UK. This self-isolation can be completed on the vessel if arrivals choose to do so. These rules apply to both UK residents and visitors. 

    All international recreational maritime vessels arriving in the UK, apart from those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man (the Common Travel Area/CTA), must now also complete a mandatory Passenger Locator Form.  

    The form collects information such as contact details, travel plans and address while in the UK, applicable details for their inbound travel and passport number, so that if individuals come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 whilst travelling they can be quickly identified. Upon completing the form, individuals will be sent an electronic receipt, confirming that they have completed the declaration, and the specific details entered. 

    Further information on how to self-isolate including exemptions can be found here.

    The rules about who does not need to fill in the form or self-isolate will remain under review and may change in the future.  

    If you are in difficulty abroad, contact the relevant British Embassy or Consulate for advice and assistance.

    To get in touch

    Should RYA members require any advice related to the guidance on this page please do not hesitate to get in touch. Your point of contact for this is the RYA Cruising Team on +44 (0) 23 8060 4233 (please have your membership number to hand when you call) or email (please include your membership number in your email).

    For other enquiries, call the RYA on +44 (0) 23 8060 4100.  Please listen to all the options and select the right one for you.  Calls are redirected to our mobile phones and we cannot redirect calls, this means you will have to redial.

    Page updated: 9 July 2020

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